July 15, 2024 1:43 pm

Local News

Report: Hospitals Struggle Amid Mounting Financial Pressure

Credit: iStock

Alex Gonzalez

new report sheds light on what it calls the “mounting financial pressures” hospitals in Arizona and across the country are facing; pressures it said ultimately affect access to care.

The American Hospital Association found hospital expenses across the board saw double-digit increases last year compared to pre-pandemic levels in categories like workforce, drugs, medical supplies and equipment.

Bharath Krishnamurthy, director of health analytics and policy for The American Hospital Association, said, simply put, “Hospitals are struggling.”

“What that really means for patients is the programs and services that hospitals provide are at risk of potentially closing or being limited,” Krishnamurthy explained. “Patients’ ability to access those services are in jeopardy.”

He emphasized the problem is especially critical for rural hospitals which may not be able to afford to offer certain services in their communities, meaning patients would have to travel to get the care they need. The report said more than half of hospitals were operating at a financial loss at the end of 2022, which Krishnamurthy noted is likely to continue this year.

Krishnamurthy pointed out hospitals have faced financial struggles for a number of years, as their overall expenses have increased by 17.5% between 2019 and 2022, far outpacing Medicare reimbursement rates, which increased 7.5% during the same time.

He argued the pandemic exacerbated the financial woes, and the Association believes Congress should step in to help hospitals out.

“They can enact policies that better ensure there is a pipeline of workers in place, so that hospitals can hire staff and fill gaps where needed,” Krishnamurthy suggested. “They can ensure that cuts to Medicare reimbursement don’t go into effect.”

He stressed the administrative tasks required by insurance companies also contribute to rising expenses. According to the report, almost nine in 10 nurses said administrative burdens have negatively affected patients’ clinical outcomes.

This story was written by Alex Gonzalez, a producer at Public News Service, where this story first appeared.